I am pretty sure I lived up to the name of my blog this weekend when I ran the 2017 Paavo Nurmi Marathon as a training run. I know, who runs a marathon as a training run? Seriously.
Actually, it all started a few months ago when my friend Heather reached out to me and asked if I wanted to join her and her running crew up there for the race. They were doing the relays and she mentioned how much she wanted to do the marathon some day and after thinking about it, there was no reason why not to. It’s a quick(ish) drive from Minneapolis and the course was exactly what I needed — full of hills.
Yes, that’s the course elevation!
The Paavo Nurmi Marathon is Wisconsin’s oldest (and longest running) marathon. I guess in the 70s and 80s it had a number of people run it, but it now attracts a smaller crowd. I’m not even sure they had 100 people register for the full marathon.
The race expo had a few vendors and was held at the local high school. I think I was in and out in about three minutes, a major benefit of a small race! That night, I stayed with Heather and her running crew. We had a huge spaghetti dinner (so good!) and went to bed around 10 p.m.
The next morning, I was up just before 6 a.m. and grabbed a plain bagel with some water for breakfast. We headed out the door around 6:40 a.m. and started venturing towards the start line. It’s a small race, so there are literally four port-a-potties at the start, so we opted to make a stop on the way.
We ended up getting to the start just after 7 a.m. and the small crowd of runners started to grow. I decided to hit the bathroom one last time and got in line for one of the four port-a-potties at 7:19 a.m., panicking because you know you’d never make it to the start on time in a big race. I think I was done by 7:22 a.m. and lined up by 7:23 a.m. Seriously, small races have some major benefits!
They started the race on time (major pet peeve of mine) and my goal was to stick around 9:00ish minute miles. Of course, my legs were feeling fresh and there were some downhills, so my first mile was a little faster than what I wanted.
Miles 1-5: 7:43//7:58//8:22//8:03//8:00
I felt REALLY good throughout this part of the course and was a little surprised… there were a few hills, a lot of downhills and mostly, the air was cool and my legs were happy. I was trying to rein it in, but at the same time, I figured I should enjoy it while I can.
Miles 6-13: 8:22//8:47//9:04//8:54//8:46//8:39//8:47//8:29
At this point, I caught up with Andriette, who is this amazing runner that has a goal to run 100 marathons under 4 hours and I think this was her 93rd! We ended up running most of the race together, and I was busy picking her brain on everything running so these miles really flew by and honestly, felt really good!
Miles 14-20: 9:01//9:15//8:53//9:01//9:15//8:52//9:44
It was starting to get a little hotter and the hills seemed to get bigger, but there were some areas that were absolutely gorgeous that made up for it. There is minimal crowd support on this course because you are running on country roads, but the people who are out? They were AWESOME at cheering you on!
Miles 21-26: 9:02//8:33//8:45//9:01//9:03//9:19
At this point, you turn onto Highway 51, which I know many people don’t like… you are running on the highway, it’s not blocked off and most of the traffic doesn’t even slow down or move over (I ran past two cops and they did neither). I lost Andriette around this point and started chugging up the hill with all that I had left. I was told that once you see the helicopter (it’s part of a war memorial), it’s all downhill. Of course, I didn’t see that until mile 25.5… but it gave me the extra oomph to kick in the .2 at a 7:46 pace!! I’ve never had that kind of kick at the end of a race.
I ended up finishing in 3:49.59… just squeaking under that 3:50.
Andddd… first in my age group! I didn’t think this would ever happen, but that’s one of the benefits of running a small race.
So let’s get real, what did I think about the Paavo Nurmi Marathon?
Honestly, I really enjoyed this race! I know that we had near ideal weather this year because usually it’s pretty hot and humid. The hills were hard, but not as brutal as some other races (Hill Country Marathon, ahem) and it was so great to have company for most of the race. However, I must caveat this by saying… it’s a lot different to run a race as a training run vs. putting your all into it, so I may be a little biased.
There’s something about small town races that are so enjoyable, too. I do love the bigger races with all the flair and flash, but small town races just have a quality about them that can’t be beat. I love how easy it is to get to the start, not having to worry about weaving through everyone and being able to mingle with all the runners. Oh, and basically running across the finish line and having your post-race beer in your hand within minutes. 😉
I think I would definitely run this race again. I’m not sure I would ever try to PR here, just because of the weather and hills, but it was an enjoyable race and such a fun experience. My favorite part about this race was the fact that it was a HUGE mental boost for me… I feel like my confidence was waning with the struggle of ultramarathon training, but now I’m excited to get back out there and hit it! So, I’m very thankful for the Paavo Nurmi Marathon for that.
Oh! I should add. Next year is the 50th, so they are trying to plan something big for it… might be the year to run it!
What about you: big or small races?
Do you race in the summer?
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